Column by Kay Frances
By now, many of us have experienced the ubiquitous “Work Teleconference Call.” When the COVID-19 shutdown first happened, many people had never been on a video conference call. There was quite a learning curve and so many questions.
“How do I position my computer so that the camera doesn’t shine right up my nose?” I learned far more about people’s nasal septums than I ever wanted to.
“Can people see me when I walk around with my laptop?” Yes, and you are making us dizzy.
“Does anyone hear my dog barking in the background?” Yes, but strangely, we all find that to be charming. Or we don’t notice. Kind of like how we got immune to car alarms or cell phones ringing in public places. It’s just part of the audio fabric of our lives.
The worst thing that can happen on a Work Teleconference Call is when we realize we failed to MUTE our microphone and that are camera is NOT off. Once we discover our error, the best we can hope for is that:
a. We didn’t say anything disparaging about our boss.
b. We were fully clothed.
Over the past several months, people have come to realize that whatever is behind them shows up in the call also. So, people have gone about tidying up to improve what people are going to see. A lot of people have a bookcase behind them with strategically-placed intellectual tomes on it; unread books that were probably once displayed on their coffee table. Not to be outdone, I lined my bookcase with trashy romance novels and supermarket tabloids. People also line up their awards and trophies. Not me. I put up all of my participation ribbons, even one that says, “Well, I tried.”
The other alternative is the use of “green screen” technology. You can choose any background you want. Want your coworkers to think you live in a bohemian loft in New York City? No problem! Just a click of the mouse. Of course, when the world zigs, I have to zag, so instead of trying to impress with a background of a stylish 20th floor office, I went the opposite way. I found a background of the worst, nastiest room I could find, complete with peeling paint and a bare mattress on the floor. When the shutdown first happened back in the spring, I had a video conference call with some of my high school classmates. When they saw my dilapidated background, I deadpanned that since the shutdown, I had just been SO BUSY that I hadn’t had time to clean. It was troubling that — for a few minutes — they actually thought it was for real.
I don’t think these Teleconference Calls are going anywhere soon, so I guess we have to get used to it. And, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. There is a strange comfort in knowing our nasal septum is much nicer than our co-worker’s. And, think of what we are saving in pants.